My Role Model …

Great photographs tell stories and capture the enormity not just of moments, but of the sentiment around them.

This is my favorite photograph of all.

It is of Rhea holding my hand for the first time. Just born, barely awake, her entire hand smaller than that part of my finger (Distal Phalanx, says Google). Tiny, but overwhelmingly engulfing. This was infinity and eternity all at once. I will never forget it.


She arrived in the world earlier than most kids do. And somewhere in those early days, needed to fight just that bit harder than most kids do. She did.

Now, next month, she’ll be 13. Thirteen! If you haven’t been there, or even if you have, the prospect of a teenage daughter is, let’s face it, daunting. This is when all the scary stuff about vanity and rebellion is supposed to kick in, when the conditions implicit in unconditional love become that much more stark, when you’re acutely aware of the importance of every step you take as a parent and thereby unduly nervous about it. This is when you balance independence with control. This is when you hold hands but also when you let a bit go.

My daughter is now no longer at an age where knowledge is what is presented to her and absorbed effortlessly. Now, her curiosity shapes what she learns. She has the means at her disposal just like everyone now does (did you know that there is a Wikihow page on How to be a Good Daughter? Yes, there are 14 easy steps apparently). It is a bottomless, horizon-less world out there.

This is how she’s shaping up : Her room is the color of her favorite team – the LA Lakers (no, not Team India), on the wall there is a Justin Bieber poster (no, not Eric Clapton), and for mood, One Direction sing the Story of My Life over and Over Again. It is beautifully infuriating.

On the odd day, we sit down with her and talk of the value of friendship and choices. How far you go, baby, depends on who goes with you. Choose wisely. Beware the alluring sounds of alarm bells, for that is how they sound at that age. Be careful of the examples you follow and even more cognizant of the ones you set. Read. Write. Always read and write. Express yourself. Follow the news. Compete. Be kind.  It is our own little Wikihow.

And then, on a day to day basis, we keep a watchful eye. But some of the biggest examples of character come when you hardly expect them. About a year or so ago, Rhea told us of this initiative in schools here to volunteer in various ways for Cancer cure and research. She told us of her desire to shave her head , donate her hair, show solidarity, raise money, contribute to finding a cure and help those who waited for one. It was a decision with amazing clarity.

She had read about it, spoken with friends, understood what it meant and chosen to do it. Over the past year, her resolve has been unstinting, her excitement only increasing. It is probably what she has looked forward to the most. This wasn’t a parent’s idea of virtue carefully planted or spoon-fed. It was in every way her own initiative born out of her own sense of value.

So tomorrow, she will do what she set out to do. And I will be there to hold her hand

My daughter is older than that girl who first held my hand and I am proud that as she enters her teenage years, my daughter’s biggest strength is implicit in this choice that she has made. That for her, the real cancer is apathy and the only cure is empathy.


Shock and Awe

It was a good day, it was a bad day. It was January 7, 2009. Though it had started off as an ordinary day with little to indicate the stunning events that were to follow. It was a day of mortals turning super men, it was a day of falling angels and all categories of men in between the two extremes. It was a day to remember, it was a day to forget. It was a day of some terrible decision making and some terrible decision makers. It was a day of painful truths; some physical; some ethical. It was a day for making statements. Some forceful, some forced.

 smith injured

The moment Dale Steyn was dismissed and the Australians began celebrating their victory, there emerged from the shadows of the SCG stands, a man with a mission. A man who refused to lose. Graeme Smith might have had a broken finger and a sore elbow but he also possessed a stout heart. He walked out in the middle to partner Ntini, who himself had shown admirable gumption in sticking around. Smith’s heroic gesture was a captain’s message to his team. The captain never abandoned his ship. He went down with it. It was a message to the opponents. South Africa was not willing to give an inch even in a dead rubber. They would scrap all the way down. They would use all their reserves and more.

In the same match, the opposite number had acted the dual role of the plaintiff and the judge, a throwback to the good old Sydney 2008 days. Some crucial decisions went against the South Africans and the final match result also was painfully similar to 2008. But in Sydney it was not surprisingly the opposition captains who walked away with all the glory. Kumble for his steely but calm reaction in 2008 and Smith for his show of defiance in 2009.

Kevin Pietersen resigned from the England captaincy (or was he asked to go?) following his not so private tiff with Peter Moores. A man who had emerged as a statesman for his efforts to make his team tour India after the tragic events in Mumbai, was suddenly finding himself standing alone sans the team. What had happened in a month to alienate himself from the team members who were solidly behind his decision to tour India? One should know of the reasons in a few months in his next biography.

The shock though was reserved for another statement.

The leader of one of the largest software companies in the country, one which had received the Golden Peacock award (for excellence in corporate governance) a few months back, was admitting to commiting a massive fraud on an ongoing basis for many quarters. A company that was started, built and nurtured by him was being taken down by the same man. A company of 53,000+ employees was left rudderless.

On January7th 2009, a captain, in physical pain, in batting for his 10 team mates ended up making a nation proud. On January 7th 2009, a captain, a leader of 53,000 people, pulled down a proud nation by a couple of notches. It was a good day, it was a bad day.

Posted by Rahul

The Fabulous One

Asked for the umpteenth time in is career on Sunday whether he felt any pressure when he went out to bat, this time in the first innings of the 2nd test match between India and Sri Lanka, after having lost the first one comprehensively, Virender Sehwag said for the umpteenth time that he didn’t. He couldn’t understand what the brouhaha was all about. He went there and played his natural game, enjoyed himself, smashed the bowlers all over the park, scored a century, smashed the bowlers all over the park, scored a double century, carried his bat, came back for another crack, scored a fifty. All this was done with minimum fuss and a jovial smile on his face. Even his opponents couldn’t begrudge him his achievement. Murali almost rushed to congratulate him when the 200th run was scored off his own bowling. Rarely has one seen a bowler do that. It was a wonderful gesture from one champion to another.

Back in December 2007, when Sehwag had been out of the Indian test team for more than 6 months, the selectors decided to exclude him from the list of 24 probables for the upcoming tour of Australia. For a man, who was the only triple century maker for his country, this was a cruel blow. In those 6 months, Sehwag had played a few ODI’s and was also a part of the T20 World cup winning team, but had failed to impress with consistently decent scores. To top it Sehwag had not performed in the domestic matches as well and his previous record in Australia was not enough for the selectors to augment a place in the list. Gautam Gambhir, who was initially included in the list, got a shoulder injury and Sehwag was surprisingly included in the final 14 declared for the Australian tour 2007-08. It is widely believed that captain Anil Kumble’s support tilted the balance in his favour. Kumble might have lost a few crucial tosses after that, but had called it right on one of the more important moments in Indian cricket.

Over the past few years, Sehwag had emerged as the man most feared in the Indian Test team. For a man who came to the team as a SRT clone and who had opening thrust on him due to a packed middle order, this was some achievement indeed. Tendulkar was almost revered, Dravid was hugely respected by their opponents. But when it came to pure unadulterated fear, Sehwag was your man. When an opposition captain was asking the Shakespearean “To declare, or not to declare” question, for setting the final target, the Sehwag factor added a few more runs to the equation. The sheer presence of the man contributed to the team in times of crisis. The significantly lower second innings average, notwithstanding. But he seems to have been coming to terms with that statistic as well after his brilliant 151 at Adelaide. The worrying factor for the opposition is that the man always seems to tide over his short comings. The ‘Bowl short pitch at his body’ mantra worked for some time, doesn’t work too well now, ‘bowl incutters to him’ was temporarily effective but may not be any more. He is not a complete player and one is not trying to attribute qualities to him out of thin air. Just the fact that by the time you get the ball in the right area he might have actually scored 50+ is a headache for most opponents.

Sehwag evokes a gamut of reactions in fans of Indian cricket. Amazement, wonder, awe, anger, frustration, disgust, one gets everything at the Sehwag show. There’s a very thin line between amazement and anger, wonder and frustration and awe and disgust. It’s as thin as the line between ‘carefree’ and ‘careless’. Ask Kevin Pietersen. But the fact that Sehwag averages above 50 reveals that more often than not, it’s his ‘carefree’ approach that wins the day.

‘The man hunched over his motorcycle can focus only on the present instant of his flight; he is caught in a fragment of time cut off from both the past and the future; he is wrenched from the continuity of time . . . in other words, he is in a state of ecstasy; in that state he is unaware of his age, his wife, his children, his worries, and so he has no fear, because the source of fear is in the future, and a person freed of the future has nothing to fear.”  – Slowness  by Milan Kundera
Virender Sehwag’s batting style seems to fit the abovementioned fragment from “slowness”. It seems like a daredevil approach to the game. He enjoys his game and the absence of any fear of the future leads to his pressure free game. One feels that some how it doesn’t capture the essence of Sehwag’s batting. It’s not all wham bam. Maybe it is more nuanced.

One is not sure if this description of a speed demon applies to the top F1 drivers of our time. The present instant of his flight is what the driver may be concentrating on, but at the same time he has to be perfectly attuned to his current position, the condition of his car, the track conditions, the weather, team instructions and the strategy that he is running on. It’s not the straight line speed that can be achieved by his car that matters as much as his ability to control that speed and brake at the last possible instant on curves and bends.  The split tiny micro second more that he takes to brake than the other drivers may be the differentiator for the championship standing. What also matters is the reliability of the car, the speeds it can give on various segments of the track and the car’s braking ability. Being a relative greenhorn to F1, one may be excused for any unintentional errors. But there is little doubt that F1 is one of the ultimate tests of man – machine combination.

Maybe Sehwag’s essence can be described as this combination of man and machine. He has the talent, the hand eye co-ordination required to hit the ball better than most. Maybe he is the ‘natural born hitter’. But at the same time his mind is not in a tizzy at times of his exhilarating stroke play. He seems to be on the way to becoming a great race driver as well. He knows what the team strategy is, he knows what the conditions are, he knows whether he has to push himself or just sit back a bit, he knows that he is control of the immense speed which has been gifted to him. He is on the way to becoming a more consistent driver. All F1 drivers make mistakes, so will he. It’s the consistency that can propel him ahead.

But does the protagonist’s description as a cricketer who bats phenomenally and bowls occasionally does him service. One would tend to disagree. There’s more to him than his cricketing skills. Ishaant Sharma’s extra over to Ricky Ponting at Perth which decided the fate of the match is a point in case. Sehwag has shown a keen cricketing brain beneath his easy going exterior and the fact that he is the vice captain for the SL tour bodes well for the future of Indian cricket. Who will take over from Kumble when he hangs his boots is an interesting poser, though one would believe that MSD is going to be the front runner, his ‘rest’ notwithstanding. The selectors have given enough hints about MSD’s elevation to India test captaincy and they wouldn’t want to upset the apple cart unless MSD is finding it tough to be in the Indian test team at that time. But this is just speculation, and at present post Dinesh Karthik’s sterling contribution in SL, the bike loving (no reference to the Slowness piece intended) MSD would be the odds on favourite. But Sehwag is surely going to be considered for the job.

Virender Sehwag should do well to remember Shakespear’s quote from Twelfth Night – “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them”. Amen.

                                                                                                                         Posted by Rahul